What's On in Italy - June 2014

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 02:30

Summer kicks into gear with a variety of festivals for the mind, eyes and ears. John Bensalhia finds out what's coming up in June.

The better the weather, the more frequent the festival. And with summer here, June is a month that looks not only to the past with a series of traditional festivities, but with festivals that celebrate new and upcoming talent, whether it's in the spheres of art, drama or music.

SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA – Events include FESTA DELLA CULTURA, 14th - 26th June, Florence; CALCIO STORICO FIORENTINO, 14th - 24th June, Florence; SAN GIOVANNI FESTIVAL – last weekend in June (TBC), Lake Como

Many events are being held all over Italy to commemorate the Feast Day of St. John The Baptist. The founder of the San Giovanni Festival will be speaking at this year's Festa Della Cultura in Firenze. John Hoenig will present his lecture on 18th June. This year's Festa Della Cultura boasts a wide and varied line-up of events and shows including concerts, community events and guided tours, which feature a walk led by Alexandra Lawrence through The Florentine. An exhibition of contemporary sacred art is open to the public and features imaginative and unique sculptures and paintings from the likes of Olivia Santiago, Caroline Jervis and Luca Rafanelli.

Florence will be celebrating the Feast Day of San Giovanni with the finale of its medieval-style football tournament, Calcio Storico Fiorentino. The tournament heats take place on 14th and 15th June, and the event promises again to be a colourful and exciting spectacle with its additional procession of historic figures in authentic costumes. Drummers, knights, Florentine Madonnas, nobles... they'll all be there in the Historic Parade of the Republic of Florence.

Lake Como's San Giovanni Festival is another annual event not to be missed, boasting amazing firework displays, food, historical sights, and a religious celebration that takes place in the ruins of the ancient Basilica of St. Euphernia.


It's an annual sight that's remembered forever. Illuminating the Arno embankments between Ponte della Cittadella and Ponte alla Fortezza, around 70,000 candles will create a memorable spectacle of light. The candles are placed within small glass lamps to create the effect, which bathes the riverside, parapets, palaces and architecture of the area in a beautifully ethereal glow.

The event lights the way on 16th June, the eve of the feast day of St Rainerius (San Ranieri), the patron saint of Pisa. In addition to the awesome light display, there will be fireworks and a special float of lighted candles that will sail down the Arno.

CORPUS DOMINI EVENTS – c. 19th June, Various

Taking place 60 days after Easter, Corpus Domini will be celebrated in many places in Italy, including Rome, Orvieto and Bolsena.

Rome will see the grand procession of the Ostia (the Eucharistic Host that's given in Communion) from the Basilica of San Giovanni to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. A procession will also be the centrepiece of the events in Orvieto in which town members are clad in medieval costumes such as knights, dames and damsels. The procession of the Relic will be carried through the town, where the streets will be lined with decorative flowers.

Similar celebrations will be taking place in Bolsena with the Infiorata Festival, which also features specially prepared works of art made from flower petals, and also in Castelrotto, which will host a huge festival to commemorate the event.

MERCATO DELLE GAITE - 19th-29th June, Bevagna (Umbria)

Sometimes today's life seems too clinical. More state of the art gizmos and foods and gimmicks, but arguably less face to face communication. If it's a simpler era that you're after, then Bevagna is returning to the medieval era for 10 days.

Mercato Delle Gaite is a celebration of all things medieval. Medieval taverns and markets are open to everyone – the markets selling a wide variety of home-made goodies from food and drink through to candles, textiles and baskets.

Visitors can learn all about medieval crafts in specially organised workshops, while a travelling showcase of theatre, music and jugglers will keep everyone entertained. Special events are also taking place in honour of the medieval age, including Mass, a Gourmet Race and the Race of Archery.

VERONA OPERA FESTIVAL - 20th June-7th September, Verona

All opera buffs will look forward to this year's festival which is sure to provide feasts for the eyes and ears.

This year's festival looks to many of the classics for inspiration. Kicking off on the 20th June is a performance of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. This will then be followed by performances of opera favourites such as Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Bizet's Carmen and Gounod's Romeo And Juliet.

The festival will be capped off by some extra special guests. Gracing this year's event are Roberto Bolle And Friends and opera legend Placido Domingo. All in all, it's a very strong season that opera fans can enjoy immensely.

SUD TIROL JAZZ FESTIVAL - 27th June-6th July, South Tyrol

Nothing sums up summer in song quite like cool, jazzy sounds. Coming to Italy's northernmost province is the Sud Tyrol Jazz Festival which launches in late June. There will be regular slots of Jazz On The Mountains, as a number of talented jazz performers comes to this unique and beautiful spot to provide a lush soundtrack. These include Saslonch Suite and Vincent Peirani, who will be performing both solo and with the Living Being Quintet. Peirani will also be providing a Night Of French Music during this year's sessions.

Other acts gracing the Sud Tyrol Jazz Festival 2014 are Julien Desprez, Let Spin, Leila Martial, Nicole Johanntgen and Remi, and the Panossian Trio. A stellar line-up that will satisfy all fans of jazz music.

FESTIVAL DEI 2 MONDI - 27th June-13th July, Spoleto (Umbria)

The Festival Of Two Worlds is jam-packed this year with a broad cross-section of art events, shows and performances. Whether your taste encompasses cinema, opera, ballet or classical music, there is something on this year's roster for everyone.

For opera fans, there are three for the price of one in just one night, with a combination of La Mort De Cleopatre, La Dame De Monte Carlo and Erwartung. Other notable music performances come from singer Edoardo Bennato and pianist Andrea Griminelli, who will be playing pieces from Bach and Handel.

Fans of dancing can look forward to a number of treats this year, including the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the San Francisco Ballet and a Gala of International Dance. Some special drama performances are also slotted in this year, including an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and a performance of Love Letters starring legendary French actors Anouk Aimee and Gerard Depardieu.

Adding to the eclectic line-up this year are festival exhibitions, Liz Swados' oratorio, Weather and a tribute to costume designer, Piero Tosi, which boasts a selection of artwork, photography and vintage movies.

IL GIOCO DEL PONTE - 29th June, Pisa

It's time to defend the bridge again! Since 1982, Il Gioco Del Ponte (The Battle Of The Bridge) has provided a colourful and exciting event for all to see. Two sets of armies in 16th century Spanish costumes will aim to conquer the bridge occupied by the enemy: Mezzogiorno vs Tramontana.

It's said that the Battle Of The Bridge is based on a military simulation known as the Mazzascudo, in which Pisans trained in battles in Piazza degli Anziani. The Battle dates back to the 16th century, and was also held during the 18th. During the 20th century, the Battle took place in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, but became a regular fixture from 1982 onwards.